Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Should a Mayor de Blasio do on Willets Point?

It is looking more and more apparent that Bill de Blasio will be NYC’s next mayor-although we should always be aware of the potential for the chaos of events to intercede. That being said, what should de Blasio do about the development of Willets Point? We have some very good suggestions.

In the first place, the development at Willets Point was intended to be one of Mayor Bloomberg’s signature legacy projects-the “first green neighborhood,” and all that palaver. Instead, owing to the good work of the team assembled by WPU, the original mega-deal was derailed and the current Rosemary’s Baby was given birth. Instead of affordable housing, a living wage and traffic relieving ramps, we have been give the city’s largest retail mall built on parkland. The property taken under the threat of eminent domain is now earmarked for a parking lot!

Put simply, Public Advocate de Blasio, this is not your deal. In fact, when you voted to approve the original deal in 2008 you were played by the Bloomberg administration. Since it isn’t your deal-and the bastardized deal that has replaced the original involves turning over $200 million worth of city owned property to friends of the mayor-you should let the city council know that a mayor de Blasio doesn’t approve of this kind of bait and switch corporate welfare. You should publicly argue that a new council leadership and a new mayor should be given the opportunity to craft a better deal for the city-one that better respects parkland and the rights of property owners and tenant businesses.

This was demonstrate real leadership-especially because we know that it is really tempting to allow the old guard to push this through so you can avoid the entanglements that the reconfigured deal certainly creates. But this would be, in our view, the coward’s way out-and you have demonstrated courage and a real energy for changing the way we do business in NYC.

Shelving a deal that was promoted by an illegal lobbying scheme-and fraudulent environmental studies- and that ends up with a mall replacing 2,000 units of affordable housing, should be an easy call for a change administration. The current Willets West proposal is a bad deal for the citizens of Queens and the tax payers of the entire city. If we are going to use the condemnation process, then the end result should be something that significantly advances the public interest-as this land give away certainly does not.

So, Mayor de Blasio, send a signal to the city that there is a new sheriff in town and things are going to be done different. We are not going to unceremoniously shunt aside hard working small businesses to aggrandize the interests of the 1%. Say No to Willets West and set the tone for a different kind of politics.